#3 (The “7 Last Sayings of Christ” Series)




TEXT:         Luke 23:32-33, 39-43


INTRO:       What is the most important decision you think you will have to make in this life?


a.   What person to marry?

b.   What kind of career will I do?

c.   How many kids do I want?

d.   What home to buy?

e.   What kind of car will I drive?

f.    What do I want for dinner?


The greatest decision in life is "None of the above!" ... it is how you answer the question Pilate asked, "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Matt. 27:22


The answer to this question will determine your life not only now but throughout eternity!  The answer to this most important question will decide whether you experience "Paradise Lost" or "Paradise Found."


ILLUS:   If you ever get the opportunity to visit Egypt and the tombs and pyramids, study what was required to construct some of those monuments.  Some studies revealed that it required the efforts of one hundred thousand workers for forty years to build one of the great pyramids.  As you tour the area there, you can't help but ask why.  Why so much effort?  Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb, on the afterlife?

   The answer is that the Egyptians understood full well they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life.  Granted, some of their conceptions of what would happen in the afterlife were a little skewed.  But the point is, they understood to the core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life, and so they prepared for the afterlife during this life.  God had placed eternity in their hearts.  – Bill Hybels, "Your Ever After: Heaven," Preaching Today, Tape 34.


Two thieves were crucified with Jesus, one mocked Jesus till his dying moment, but the other reached out to Christ and discovered the joy of his sins forgiven and the promise of paradise.  These two men still represent the choices that are ours today; to choose paradise and joy, or hell and judgment.  What will you do with Jesus?


PROP. SENT:     The Bible teaches us that all of mankind must choose to remain in their sins and reject Christ and lose paradise or to reach out to Christ and find eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Each of us WILL make this decision one way or the other!


I.   PROBLEM OF SIN    23:32-33, 39


A.   Death!   23:32-33

1.   The two criminals that were being crucified with Jesus were about to face eternity.

a.   At first they don't seem too concerned about what might come after death.

b.   Like many people in this world they just don't want to think about it, or they would like to believe that everyone will be fine no matter what you believe.

2.   Isn't it ironic that we will go to such great lengths to prepare for a journey anywhere on this planet but fail to plan for the greatest journey of our existence, the journey into eternity!

a.   At least the Egyptians with their huge pyramids understood the importance of what was coming in relationship to what is now!

b.   The Egyptians may have gone about it in the wrong way but they had the right idea; prepare for the future after death, in some way they were smarter than many people today who don't even consider life after death!

c.   How many of us have seriously considered our future beyond this life?


ILLUS:     I am told that an Indiana cemetery has a tombstone (more than a hundred years old) which bears the following epitaph:

Pause Stranger, when you pass me by,

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, so you will be,

So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby read those words and underneath scratched this reply:

To follow you I'm not content,

Until I know which way you went. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 145.


3.   Death is the byproduct of sin, this is why Jesus went to the cross to die for us, to destroy death's hold on us.

4.   While these two criminals were getting what they deserved, the Lord who is innocent was paying the price to redeem us from the penalty and power of sin.

a.   Yet these two men seem unaware of the unique opportunity that was present in Christ – at first.  The other Gospel accounts record that both sneered at Jesus at first.  See Mark 15:32 & Matt. 27:44

b.   One of these men however will realize his need and that will open a unique door of opportunity for him.

c.   The door this one criminal opens is one we can still open today, the door to Paradise!  The Greek word translated here literally means, "a garden" or "forested area" - used of Eden in Gen. 2:8-10.

5.   Death will not mark the end of life, just change the destination point!


B.   Deception!    23:39

1.   One of the criminals now continues his insults at Christ!

a.   How tragic, this man is dying and all he can think about is mocking Christ!

b.   It is sad but true that there are many people who go to their graves still railing at Christ!


ILLUS:     Years ago I heard a man share his experience of surviving a plane crash where the plane crash landed and burst into flames.  Many on the plane died.  The man who survived was a Christian and he recalled how shocked he was to hear people cursing at God as they sat in their seats burning to death.  He stated how surprised he was that people would respond this way knowing that they were perishing, instead of calling out to God they cursed God as they died. – Source Unknown


c.   This man cries out mockingly and tells Jesus to save him, but only to free him so he can sin more, not to save him to change his heart and life!

2.   Like many people even now, they only want Jesus to take away their pain and suffering so they can continue to live any way that they want.

a.   How many times do people come to God when they are suffering and as soon as the suffering has ended they forget about God or the promises they have made to Him?

b.   He wasn't seriously interested in Jesus saving him, just freeing him so he can continue his wicked ways!

c.   The heart of sin is selfishness.

3.   This man was deceived by sin, self interest instead of self sacrifice will not bend the ear of God.

4.   So often man is a fool and self deceived when it comes to spiritual things.


ILLUS:    Have you heard the story about the rich man who was determined to "take it with him" when he died?  Here's how it goes:

   The rich man prayed until finally the Lord gave in.  There was one condition; he could bring only one suitcase of his wealth.  The rich man decided to fill the case with gold bullion. The day came when God called him home.  St. Peter greeted him but told him he couldn't bring his suitcase.  "Oh, but I have an agreement with God," the man explained. "That's unusual," said Saint Peter.  "Mind if I take a look?"  The man opened the suitcase to reveal the shining gold bullion.  Saint Peter was amazed.  "Why in the world would you bring pavement?" -- Rev. Warren Keating in The Joyful Noise Letter, Reprinted in Reader's Digest, Dec. 1995, p. 63-64.


5.   Though the very essence of life itself was present with him in this crucifixion he simply ignores Christ, if Christ won't give him what he wants right now he has no use for Jesus!

a.   He joins in the ridicule of the crowd against Jesus.

b.   He ironically joins in with the ones who are killing him!!

c.   How sin deceives the heart and mind!




A.   Discovery!    23:40-41

1.   The other criminal however begins to see the truth about Christ and about himself.  This discovery is one that could change the course of his future!

a.   He confesses his own sins.

b.   He acknowledges Christ's sinlessness.

c.   He is opening the right door to find eternal life in Christ!

2.   The fear of death is falling away from his heart ... for in these moments he is coming to Christ.

a.   No doubt there is that fear of the unknown but Christ's presence seems to be making a change even in this fear.


ILLUS:    In his book “The Best is Yet to Be,” Henry Durbanville told the story of a man who lay dying and was fearful, even though he was a born- again Christian. He expressed his feelings to his Christian doctor.  The physician was silent, not knowing what to say.  Just then a whining and scratching was heard at the door.  When the doctor opened it in bounded his big beautiful dog which often went with him as he made house calls.  The dog was glad to see his master.  Sensing an opportunity to comfort his troubled patient, the doctor said, "My dog has never been in your room before, and he didn't know what it was like in here.  But he knew I was here, and that was enough.  In the same way, I'm looking forward to heaven.  I don't know much about it, but I know my Savior is there.  And that's all I need to know!" – Source Unknown


b.   The sting of death is removed from us in Christ, though we may still feel some apprehension about exactly what happens.  There is a peace in our souls about the future because we know that Christ is on the other side to greet us!

3.   This one criminal opens his heart to Christ, in acknowledging his own guilt he can now be set free by the one who is dying for him!


B.   Deliverance!    23:42-43

1.   Remarkably, this dying thief now turns to Christ and asks to be remembered by Him when Jesus comes into His kingdom!

a.   This is an expression of faith in Christ, he believes Jesus is who He said He is and that Jesus will be entering into His kingdom right after death, he desires to be with Christ in His kingdom.

b.   In the pain of the moment you can't help but believe this moved the heart of Jesus, this thief was the first to come to Christ at the cross!

c.   The man's faith would be rewarded even in these last seconds of his life.

2.   Jesus will never turn away from the heart of one who confesses his sins and reaches out to put faith in Him!

a.   Even when man would not consider this fair, God never turns anyone away who comes.

b.   It is remarkable that this thief would come in these last moments, but it changed his future for ever!

c.   This man had the privilege of marching into paradise WITH Christ that same day!

3.   As long as there is life, there is hope...

a.   God desires all of us to come to Him.

b.   God will not turn a deaf ear to anyone who cries out to Him.


ILLUS:     In recent years there have been a number of stories in the "Life After Life" vein.  One of the most moving that I have read is the story that is told by singer Johnny Cash about the death of his brother, Jack, in 1944.  Jack was two years older than Johnny and had always been his hero and model.  On Saturday, May 12, 1944, Jack went to work at a workshop, cutting fence posts.  Johnny had tried to talk Jack into going to a movie with him that day but funds were low and the family needed the money.

   While at the workshop Jack fell across the table saw and was badly injured.  He was rushed to the hospital, but they didn't expect him to live through the day.  He lingered for a week, in and out of consciousness, sometimes hallucinating, then back into a coma.  After a week of his condition worsening, it was obvious that he was going to die.  The family gathered in the hospital room.  Jack was swollen from the ravages of the traumatic injury.  Johnny Cash tells the story:

   "I remember standing in line to tell him good-bye.  He was still unconscious.  I bent over his bed and put my cheek against his and said, 'Good-bye, Jack.'  That's all I could get out.

   "My mother and daddy were on their knees.  At 6:30 A.M. he woke up.  He opened his eyes and looked around and said, 'Why is everybody crying over me?  Mama, don't cry over me.  Did you see the river?' "And she said, 'No, I didn't, Son.'

   "'Well, I thought I was going toward the fire, but I'm headed in the other direction now, Mama.  I was going down a river, and there was fire on one side and heaven on the other.  I was crying, 'God, I'm supposed to go to heaven.  Don't You remember?  Don't take me to the fire.'  All of a sudden I turned, and now, Mama, can you hear the angels singing?'  "She said, 'No, Son, I can't hear it.'

   "And he squeezed her hand and shook her arm, saying, 'But Mama, you've got to hear it.'  Tears started rolling off his cheeks and he said, 'Mama, listen to the angels.  I'm going there, Mama.'  "We listened with astonishment.

   "'What a beautiful city,' he said.  'And the angels singing.  Oh Mama, I wish you could hear the angels singing.'  Those were his last words.  And he died.

   "The memory of Jack's death, his vision of heaven, the effect his life had on the lives of others, and the image of Christ he projected have been more of an inspiration to me, I suppose, than anything else that has ever come to me through any man." -- Johnny Cash, Man in Black -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 176-177.


4.   The reward of faith is immediate and total ... this is the remarkable nature of God's salvation!

a.   In a moment this thief's sins are all washed away and he is a new creature in Christ!

b.   The penalty of sin may play itself out in natural consequences like crucifixion but the man's soul is now redeemed by Christ and Paradise is gained and hell avoided.

5.   It is tragic to realize however that there was still one thief that day on the cross that never got to see paradise, imagine his anguish when after death he realized that Jesus and the other thief were safely in Paradise while he was in hell!

a.   To have come so close to Jesus and refused salvation!

b.   How many today though have done the same thing, they have heard the message, heard the pleas to come to Jesus, have had the opportunities, but still reject the opportunity to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.

6.   The two thieves represent all people who have ever lived, Jesus is in the middle and each must make a choice to reject Christ or accept Him.

a.   What is YOUR decision?

b.   It does make a difference as to whether you experience PARADISE LOST, or PARADISE FOUND!

7.   Since we don't know how we might die we don't always know if that choice will be there in that moment, so why not choose today?


ILLUS:     The story is told of a famous rabbi who was walking with some of his disciples when one of them asked, "Rabbi, when should a man repent?"  The rabbi calmly replied, "You should be sure you repent on the last day of your life."  "But," protested several of his disciples, "we can never be sure which day will be the last day of our life."  The famous rabbi smiled and said, "The answer to that problem is very simple.  Repent now." – Source Unknown


CONCLUSION:   The two thieves crucified with Jesus represent our choices today:  one chose to die rejecting Christ and went into a godless eternity, the other acknowledged his sins and Jesus as Savior and FOUND PARADISE instead of Hell!  What will be your choice?